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Scores dead in airstrike on Libyan migrant camp. ISIS escapees become victims of sex trafficking. El Salvador president takes blame for migrant deaths. US embassy: Condition of American detainee worsening. Arwa Damon: Scene in Syria is terrifying, hair-raising. Protesters leave path of destruction in Hong Kong. Japan resumes commercial whaling amid backlash. Inside the government HQ overrun by protesters. Protesters clash with police in Hong Kong. Environmentalists remove tons of plastic in Pacific Ocean. Satellite images taken of the detention center in Tajoura, a coastal town east of Tripoli, showed extensive damage to several buildings in the complex.

Photos taken on the ground captured piles of rubble left where structures had been, while emergency crews worked to remove both the wounded and the dead.

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Khalifa Haftar, leader of the Libyan National Army LNA , whose forces have been waging an assault on the capital for the last two months. The LNA has denied responsibility for the attack, instead accusing Tripoli-based "militias" -- who are largely allied to the GNA -- of orchestrating a "conspiracy" to "tarnish" their reputation.

Photos: In pictures: Death toll rises in Libyan conflict.

A policeman is seen at the site of an airstrike which hit a migrant detention center in the Tajoura suburb of the Libya's capital, Tripoli, on Wednesday, July 3. Hide Caption. Bloodstains are seen on a police car at the scene of the airstrike on the migrant detention center. Emergency workers recover bodies from the detention center on July 3. A fighter loyal to the Libyan Government of National Accord checks a building near the Yarmouk military compound, south of Tripoli, following airstrikes on July 1.

Government of National Accord fighters open fire from their position in the al-Sawani area south of Tripoli during clashes with forces loyal to Haftar on June Government of National Accord forces are pictured near the frontline on June 1. Government of National Accord forces fire a heavy machine gun on June 1.

Workers operate on high voltage towers on May 23, after they were damaged by fighting. Government of National Accord fighters carry a wounded comrade during a battle on May 21 in the Salah al-Din area, south of Tripoli. Troops take up a position against Gen. Haftar's forces May Libyans call for an end to fighting during a demonstration against Haftar in Tripoli's Martyrs Square on May 3.

Government of National Accord forces are seen during clashes with troops loyal to Haftar at the Al-Yarmook frontline in Tripoli on May 9. Government of National Accord forces play an online video game on their phones during a break from fighting, in a military base in Tajoura, on May 1. A fighter loyal to the Government of National Accord stands on a rooftop as smoke rises in the distance on April Government of National Accord troops move into position during clashes with Haftar's forces on April The socio-economic achievements of the regime can be attributed essentially to the distributive state: that is, the success of the hydrocarbons sector and of the mechanisms put in place early on to distribute petrodollars.

The Congresses embodied the idea of the people as the source of legitimacy and the agent of legitimation. But the Committees embodied the very different idea of the Revolution as possessing a legitimacy that trumped all others. At the apex of the Revolution was Gaddafi himself, which is why it made sense for him to position himself outside the structure of Congresses and hence of the formal institutions of government, neither prime minister nor president but simply Murshid, Guide, Brother Leader.

The tradition of an Arab ruler making a virtue of siding with public opinion against his own ministers goes back to Haroun al-Rashid. Gaddafi, unlike any other head of state, stood at the apex not of the pyramid of governing institutions but of the informal sector of the polity, which enjoyed a degree of hegemony over the formal sector that has no modern counterpart.

And the intangible content of this Revolution, what Ruth First called its elusiveness, was closely connected to the fact that the Revolution was never over. The Libyan Revolution turned out to be permanent because its objects were imprecise, its architects had no form of law-bound, constitutional government in view as a final destination and no conception of a political role for themselves or anyone else after the Revolution.

The State of the Masses, al-jamahiriyya , was presented as far superior to a mere republic — jumhuriyya — but in fact fell far short of one. And, in contrast to states that call themselves republics but fail to live up to the name, its pretensions signalled that there was never an intention to establish a real republic in which government would truly be the affair of the people. The State of the Masses was in reality little more than a game to occupy and contain ordinary Libyans while the grown-up business of politics was conducted behind the scenes, the affair of a mysterious and unaccountable elite.

Something similar, up to a point, can be said of Algeria where the independence struggle threw up a superabundance of strong-minded revolutionaries , although 49 years on, the winding road to the democratic republic still stretches far ahead, as it did in France. But the political inertia of Libyan society meant that its Revolution had one and only one leader. Incarnating the nebulous Revolution, the imprecise interest of the nation and the inarticulate will of the people at the same time, Gaddafi clearly believed he needed to make the show interesting.

His flamboyance had a political purpose. But how long can colourfulness command consent, let alone loyalty? A Pied Piper leading Libyans — mostly well fed, housed and schooled, but maintained in perpetual political infancy — to no destination in particular. The wonder of it is that the show had such a long run. Gaddafi seems to have realised years ago what he had done — the quasi-utopian dead end he had got Libya and himself into — and tried to escape its implications.

As early as he was experimenting with liberalisation: allowing private trading, reining in the Revolutionary Committees and reducing their powers, allowing Libyans to travel to neighbouring countries, returning confiscated passports, releasing hundreds of political prisoners, inviting exiles to return with assurances that they would not be persecuted, and even meeting opposition leaders to explore the possibility of reconciliation while acknowledging that serious abuses had occurred and that Libya lacked the rule of law.

Neither judgment is accurate, both are self-serving. While it was always unrealistic to suppose that he could have remade Libya into a liberal democracy had he succeeded his father, he certainly recognised the problems of the Jamahiriyya and the need for substantial reform. Is there a parallel with the way international sanctions in the wake of Lockerbie put paid to the earlier reform initiative?

Hugh Roberts · Who said Gaddafi had to go? · LRB 17 November

Since February, it has been relentlessly asserted that the Libyan government was responsible both for the bombing of a Berlin disco on 5 April and the Lockerbie bombing on 21 December But many informed observers have long wondered about these two stories, especially Lockerbie. Jim Swire, the spokesman of UK Families Flight , whose daughter was killed in the bombing, has repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the official version. Swire, who also sat through the trial, subsequently launched the Justice for Megrahi campaign. It is often claimed by British and American government personnel and the Western press that Libya admitted responsibility for Lockerbie in This is untrue.

Libyan Civil War (2014–present)

That this formula was agreed in negotiations between the Libyan and British if not also American governments was made clear when it was echoed word for word by Jack Straw in the House of Commons. The formula allowed the government to give the public the impression that Libya was indeed guilty, while also allowing Tripoli to say that it had admitted nothing of the kind. The statement does not even mention al-Megrahi by name, much less acknowledge his guilt or that of the Libyan government, and any self-respecting government would sign up to the general principle that it is responsible for the actions of its officials.

But the prosecution case in the Lockerbie trial was itself a conspiracy theory. I do not claim to know the truth of the Lockerbie affair, but the British are slow to forgive the authors of atrocities committed against them and their friends. So I find it hard to believe that a British government would have fallen over itself as it did in to welcome Libya back into the fold had it really held Gaddafi responsible.

The hypothesis that Libya and Gaddafi and al-Megrahi were framed is to be taken very seriously indeed. Wherever the blame lies, the Jamahiriyya survived up to fundamentally unchanged in its key political features: the absence of political parties, the absence of independent associations, newspapers and publishing houses and the corresponding weakness of civil society, the dysfunctional character of the formal institutions of government, the weakness of the armed forces and the indispensability of Gaddafi himself as the originator of the Revolution that constituted the state.

The tragic irony is that the features of the Jamahiriyya that made it vulnerable to the Arab Spring also, in their combination, completely ruled out any emulation of the Tunisian and Egyptian scenarios. The factors that enabled a fundamentally positive evolution to occur in both these countries once the mass protest movement started were absent from Libya. The fact that neither president had been a founding figure allowed for a distinction to be made between a protest against the president and his cronies and a rebellion against the state: the patriotism of the protesters was never put in question.

And in both cases the role of the armed forces was crucial: being loyal to the state and the nation rather than to a particular leader, they were disposed to act as arbiters and facilitate a resolution without the existence of the state being put in jeopardy. None of this applied to Libya. Gaddafi was the founder of the Jamahiriyya and the guarantor of its continued existence. The armed forces were incapable of playing an independent political role.

The absence of any tradition of non-violent opposition and independent organisation ensured that the revolt at the popular level was a raw affair, incapable of formulating any demands that the regime might be able to negotiate.


On the contrary, the revolt was a challenge to Gaddafi and to the Jamahiriyya as a whole and thus to what existed in the way of a state. The situation that developed over the weekend following the initial unrest on 15 February suggested three possible scenarios: a rapid collapse of the regime as the popular uprising spread; the crushing of the revolt as the regime got its act together; or — in the absence of an early resolution — the onset of civil war. Had the revolt been crushed straightaway, the implications for the Arab Spring would have been serious, but not necessarily more damaging than events in Bahrain, Yemen or Syria; Arab public opinion, long used to the idea that Libya was a place apart, was insulated against the exemplary effect of events there.

Had the revolt rapidly brought about the collapse of the regime, Libya might have tumbled into anarchy. An oil-rich Somalistan on the Mediterranean would have had destabilising repercussions for all its neighbours and prejudiced the prospects for democratic development in Tunisia in particular. A long civil war, while costly in terms of human life, might have given the rebellion time to cohere as a rival centre of state formation and thus prepared it for the task of establishing a functional Libyan state in the event of victory.

And, even if defeated, such a rebellion would have undermined the premises of the Jamahiriyya and ensured its demise. None of these scenarios took place. A military intervention by the Western powers under the cloak of Nato and the authority of the United Nations happened instead. How should we evaluate this fourth scenario in terms of the democratic principles that have been invoked to justify the military intervention? There is no doubt that many Libyans consider Nato their saviour and that some of them genuinely aspire to a democratic future for their country.

Even so I felt great alarm when intervention started to be suggested and remain opposed to it even now despite its apparent triumph, because I considered that the balance of democratic argument favoured an entirely different course of action. An active, practical, non-violent alternative was proposed, and deliberately rejected. Yet many argued that the way to protect civilians was not to intensify the conflict by intervening on one side or the other, but to end it by securing a ceasefire followed by political negotiations.

A number of proposals were put forward. This proposal was echoed by the African Union and was consistent with the views of many major non-African states — Russia, China, Brazil and India, not to mention Germany and Turkey. It was restated by the ICG in more detail adding provision for the deployment under a UN mandate of an international peacekeeping force to secure the ceasefire in an open letter to the UN Security Council on 16 March, the eve of the debate which concluded with the adoption of UNSC Resolution This is a misreading.

Article 4 ruled out the introduction of an occupying force. What Resolution ruled out was the introduction of a force intended to take full political and legal responsibility for the place, but that was never the intention; ground forces were indeed eventually introduced, but they have at no point accepted political or legal responsibility for anything and so fall short of the conventional definition of an occupying force.

From the attitudes struck by the Western powers in the run-up to the Security Council debate, it was evident that the cleverly drafted resolution tacitly authorised a war to effect regime change. Those who subsequently said that they did not know that regime change had been authorised either did not understand the logic of events or were pretending to misunderstand in order to excuse their failure to oppose it. In two respects the conduct of the Western powers and Nato did indeed appear explicitly to violate the terms of Security Council resolutions.

In this way it was arranged that any state might supply arms to the rebels while none might do so to the Libyan government, which by that time had been decreed illegitimate by London, Paris and Washington. Scarcely anyone has drawn attention to the second violation. The efforts of the ICG and others seeking an alternative to war did not go entirely unnoticed. Apparently their proposals made some impression on the less gung-ho members of the Security Council, and so a left-handed homage was paid them by the drafters of Resolution In the final version — unlike any earlier ones — the idea of a peaceful solution was incorporated in the first two articles, which read:.

In this way Resolution seemed to be actively envisaging a peaceful alternative as its first preference, while authorising military intervention as a fallback if a ceasefire was refused. In reality, nothing could have been further from the truth. Resolution was passed in New York late in the evening of 17 March. The next day, Gaddafi, whose forces were camped on the southern edge of Benghazi, announced a ceasefire in conformity with Article 1 and proposed a political dialogue in line with Article 2. What the Security Council demanded and suggested, he provided in a matter of hours. His ceasefire was immediately rejected on behalf of the NTC by a senior rebel commander, Khalifa Haftar, and dismissed by Western governments.

These conditions, which were impossible for Gaddafi to accept, were absent from Article 1. Cameron and Obama had made clear that the last thing they wanted was a ceasefire, that the NTC could violate Article 1 of the resolution with impunity and that in doing so it would be acting with the agreement of its Security Council sponsors. A week later, Turkey, which had been working within the Nato framework to help organise the provision of humanitarian aid to Benghazi, announced that it had been talking to both sides and offered to broker a ceasefire.

By incorporating the alternative non-violent policy proposals in its text, the Western war party had been pulling a confidence trick, stringing along a few undecided states to get them to vote for the resolution on 17 March: a war to the finish, violent regime change and the end of Gaddafi had been the policy from the outset. All subsequent offers of a ceasefire by Gaddafi — on 30 April, 26 May and 9 June — were treated with the same contempt. But the crucial point here has to do with the logic of events and the policy choices associated with them.

London, Paris and Washington could not allow a ceasefire because it would have involved negotiations, first about peace lines, peacekeepers and so forth, and then about fundamental political differences. And all this would have subverted the possibility of the kind of regime change that interested the Western powers. The moment he became once more someone people talked to and negotiated with, he would in effect have been rehabilitated. And that would have ruled out violent — revolutionary?

And this logic was preserved from start to finish, as the death toll of civilians in Tripoli and above all Sirte proves. The mission was always regime change, a truth obscured by the hullabaloo over the supposedly imminent massacre at Benghazi. Gaddafi dealt with many revolts over the years. He invariably quashed them by force and usually executed the ringleaders. The NTC and other rebel leaders had good reason to fear that once Benghazi had fallen to government troops they would be rounded up and made to pay the price.

This was a very dark affair, and whether or not Gaddafi ordered it, it is fair to hold him responsible for it. It was therefore reasonable to be concerned about what the regime might do and how its forces would behave in Benghazi once they had retaken it, and to deter Gaddafi from ordering or allowing any excesses. But that is not what was decided.

What was decided was to declare Gaddafi guilty in advance of a massacre of defenceless civilians and instigate the process of destroying his regime and him and his family by way of punishment of a crime he was yet to commit, and actually unlikely to commit, and to persist with this process despite his repeated offers to suspend military action. There was no question of anything that could properly be described as ethnic cleansing or genocide in the Libyan context. All Libyans are Muslims, the majority of Arab-Berber descent, and while the small Berber-speaking minority had a grievance concerning recognition of its language and identity its members are Ibadi, not Sunni, Muslims , this was not what the conflict was about.

The conflict was not ethnic or racial but political, between defenders and opponents of the Gaddafi regime; whichever side won could be expected to deal roughly with its adversaries, but the premises for a large-scale massacre of civilians on grounds of their ethnic or racial identity were absent.

Why did the panic factor work so well with international, or at any rate Western, public opinion and especially governments? I believe the answer is that Gaddafi had already been so thoroughly demonised that the wildest accusations about his likely or, as many claimed, certain future conduct would be believed whatever his actual behaviour.

This demonisation took place on 21 February, the day all the important cards were dealt. On 21 February the world was shocked by the news that the Gaddafi regime was using its airforce to slaughter peaceful demonstrators in Tripoli and other cities. Resolution was duly passed five days later and the no-fly zone proposal monopolised international discussion of the Libyan crisis from then on.

Many other things happened on 21 February. Zawiya was reported to be in chaos. The minister of justice, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, resigned. Fifty Serbian workers were attacked by looters. Two airforce pilots flew their fighters to Malta claiming they did so to avoid carrying out an order to bomb and strafe demonstrators. By late afternoon regime troops and snipers were reliably reported to be firing on crowds in Tripoli.

Eighteen Korean workers were wounded when their place of work was attacked by a hundred armed men. Ten Egyptians were reported to have been killed by armed men in Tobruk. William Hague, who had condemned the repression the previous day as had Hillary Clinton , announced at a press conference that he had information that Gaddafi had fled Libya and was en route to Venezuela.

At this point the total death toll since 15 February was , according to Human Rights Watch. We can compare these figures with the total death toll in Tunisia and Egypt at least But the figures were beside the point on 21 February; it was impressions that counted. And quite right too, many may say.

These considerations raise awkward questions. If the reason cited by these ambassadors and other regime personnel for defecting on 21 February was false, what really prompted them to defect and make the declarations they did? What was al-Jazeera up to?

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  • And what was Hague up to? A serious history of this affair when more evidence comes to light will seek answers to these questions. It is possible that they were mistaken and that everything was spontaneous and accidental and a chaotic muddle; I do not pretend to know for sure. But there had been plans to destabilise their regime before, and they had grounds for thinking that they were being destabilised again. The slanted coverage in the British media in particular, notably the insistence that the regime was faced only by peaceful demonstrators when, in addition to ordinary Libyans trying to make their voices heard non-violently, it was facing politically motivated as well as random violence e.

    And on the evidence I have since been able to collect, I am inclined to think that destabilisation is exactly what was happening. In the days that followed I made efforts to check the al-Jazeera story for myself. One source I consulted was the well-regarded blog Informed Comment, maintained and updated every day by Juan Cole, a Middle East specialist at the University of Michigan.

    The same is true of every source indicated in the other items on Libya relaying the aerial onslaught story which Cole posted that same day. I was in Egypt for most of the time, but since many journalists visiting Libya were transiting through Cairo, I made a point of asking those I could get hold of what they had picked up in the field. None of them had found any corroboration of the story. He told me that no one he had spoken to had mentioned it. I subsequently discovered that the issue had come up more than a fortnight earlier, on 2 March, in hearings in the US Congress when Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were testifying.

    They told Congress that they had no confirmation of reports of aircraft controlled by Gaddafi firing on citizens. The intervention tarnished every one of the principles the war party invoked to justify it. It occasioned the deaths of thousands of civilians, debased the idea of democracy, debased the idea of law and passed off a counterfeit revolution as the real thing.

    Both assertions involved mystifications. In both cases it suggested two things: that the despot was a monster and that he represented nothing in the society he ruled. He was doing in this respect what every government in history has done when faced with a rebellion. We are all free to prefer the rebels to the government in any given case.

    That right, once taken for granted as the corollary of sovereignty, is now compromised. Theoretically, it is qualified by certain rules.

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    But, as we have seen, the invocation of rules e.